Starring: Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Misha Collins
The Winchester boys have got plenty on their plate at the start of Season 9. As if it weren’t bad enough that the gates of hell are still open, the earth is now awash with psychotic, bodysnatching angels (“winged dicks,” as Dean succinctly calls them). With Sam in a coma after the rigours of last season’s finale, Dean has to turn to one of these, name of Ezekiel, for assistance in getting his little brother back to health, but is this feathery helper quite what he seems? Meanwhile, Castiel, Sam and Dean’s angelic best bud, has lost his grace and must learn to live as a human; Crowley, the erstwhile King of Hell, is locked up in a dungeon in the Bunker; and fiery redhead Abaddon, his would-be successor, is back for a rematch.
It’s in the quest to defeat the latter that the heaviest drama lies, as Dean eyes up a dubious ancient weapon called the First Blade, and the lengths that he will go to for victory begin to put a strain on the brothers’ relationship. In the interim, though, they still find time to take on a varied selection of one-off cases, and it’s in these that the show continues to display its lighter side. Just occasionally these misfire, as in an episode which attempts to rope Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz into the Supernatural mythology, but usually there’s a nice mix of jokiness and thrills. The show takes a pop at the hunting ‘n’ shooting lobby in a story about the death of a taxidermist, health fads are mocked in an episode concerning a cellulite obsessed demon, and Sam and Dean sign virginity pledges as they delve into mysterious goings-on in a Bible-bashing chastity group.
There’s an entertaining B-story as Castiel struggles to adjust to losing his powers and becoming just like ordinary folks – this means finding a job and dealing with unpleasant bodily functions. The season also brings back various sidekicks from the past, some very welcome, such as the feisty Sheriff Jody Mills, some less so, namely the annoying paranormal investigators Ed and Harry. Along the way, the dialogue is sprinkled with pop culture savvy references (including several jokes about Game of Thrones), postmodern, metafictional gags about Supernatural novels and some racier quips aimed at the show’s LGBT fans.
Arguably, it’s a shame that the kick-ass Abaddon ends up taking second billing to the Winchester boy’s anorak-wearing nemesis, Metatron, but even if you find him on the whiny side, there’s still plenty of jeopardy in this ninth season, with the angels splitting up into violent factions and some surprisingly graphic gore to be had, including a couple of hard-hitting fatalities among the supporting cast of characters. All of the various strands of the show are held together by a robust performance by Jensen Ackles, who has to be one of the most watchable TV stars around. Throw in some exciting new revelations about the Bunker, and you have a series that shows no sign of flagging in its ninth year on the road. 8/10
An elegantly presented and well thought out set of extras. ~ A fun 18-minute spoof documentary, directed by Misha Collins, which purports to show a fan going behind the scenes, with a nice, self-deprecating sense of humour, including some jokes about Jared Padalecki’s hair and scenes that playfully undercut Ackles macho, rock ‘n’ roll image. ~ A 7-min tour of the Bunker set, with more featurettes hidden on Sam’s laptop. ~ 8-min piece on the design of the Bunker, whose Art Deco look was inspired by ’30s Federal buildings. ~ 15-min featurette on the Men of Letters and what a boon they’ve been to the show’s writers. ~ 28-min Comic-Con panel in front of cheering fans – a bit stilted, but some interesting talk about what to expect from the season. ~ 2 audio commentaries with, among others, Misha Collins, who has a nice line in wry banter. 10/10